Outreach Provides Chohooʼı̨́ for Navajo Nation
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The distribution resulted in more than 1,800 care packages being distributed to the Navajo special needs community, first responders’ families, and the elderly across the southeast portion of the Navajo Reservation.
Nathan Lynch, pastor of New Life in Pine Dale, New Mexico, works regularly with NNCRT. They distribute everything from food and firewood to cleaning materials and protective masks to residents of the Navajo Nation, which resides mostly within the states of Arizona and New Mexico, with a small portion in Utah.
The outreach took place on a Monday, which some may see as unusual. However, June 1 is Navajo Nation Treaty Day which commemorates the 1868 treaty (of which portions have yet to be honored) signed with the United States. It is viewed as a highly significant day among Navajos. Also, in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19, leaders have decided to shut down all activities on the reservation over the weekends.
This particular distribution also had key leaders participating, including the Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer; Tim Tebow; Jason Dickenson, pastor of Harvest Fellowship in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and others.
THE PEOPLE VS. THE PANDEMIC
The Navajo, also known as “Diné” or “the People,” have faced a much tougher battle than most during the current pandemic. According to the Navajo Nation website (as of June 5) 16.5% of Navajos tested have tested positive for COVID-19 (6,020) and of those, 4.6% (277) have died. In New Mexico and Arizona, only 3.8% (8,940) and 6.5% (26,889), respectively, have tested positive, with the death rate of those who tested positive at 4.4% (396) and 3.9% (1,044), respectively.
Lynch explains that the higher infection rate can be linked to several key issues, including: 30% of the people still do not have running water in their residences, making it difficult to wash hands regularly; Navajo often live in multigenerational homes, where it’s not uncommon for several generations of 15 people or more to live in the same household; and the COVID-19 pandemic followed directly on the heels of a flu pandemic in the region, where immune systems were weakened.
As the outreach provided nutritional foods that included potatoes, oranges, onions, and beans to those who desperately needing food in any form, it helped people strengthen their bodies and aid in their ability to fight off disease. As the food was distributed to those in need, the compassion and love of Christ was also shared with them.
MEET THE EXECUTIVES
Nez is the youngest president in the history of the Navajo Nation, elected in November 2018 at 43 years of age. Nez and Lizer are also passionate Christians who understand the needs of their people.
“They don’t have to be putting their own health on the line,” Nez says about the many Navajo volunteers, “but because of the love they have for people, we all see that being modeled and we read about in the Bible of how God loves us, Jesus’ unconditional love being magnified — not just here, but all across the country — it brings me hope.”
Lizer agrees and says he believes it’s important not just to be seen at events, but to actively “lend a hand” as they share in the work and encourage those around them.
He notes that he has seen many young people get involved in outreaches, volunteering their time. “We need to raise up a generation that sees activism like this here,” he says.
Although there are many negatives associated with the pandemic, Nez says he already sees God doing good through it, especially as families reunite and relationships are restored.
Both men are also happy to be a part of distributing healthy food which encourages healthier eating. They believe a healthier diet will help their people become healthier as well.
Nez states, “I think God is showing us that we’ve been on a fast pace in our lives and this is one way to stop, slow down, and to remember what is important in our lives, and that is God and looking [to] God for the answers for things that we go through.”
TEBOW NOT JUST FOR SHOW
There’s no missing Tim Tebow – standing 6-3 and with intimidatingly muscular arms — the former NFL quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner, and current minor league baseball player and broadcaster could let his presence be enough.
But Tebow was loading cars and interacting with individuals throughout the day. His passion to lead people to Christ through being the hands and feet of Christ, often to the overlooked and marginalized, is clearly evident.
“God is a god that gives hope,” Tebow says. “And there are a lot of people, not just here in Navajo Nation, but around the country and around the world, who are starving for true Hope and we know as believers that Hope comes as a person, and His name is Jesus.”
Talking about the importance of filling the gap, he explains that he and his team are about doing what others aren’t doing, and especially for people who have been pushed away or pushed aside.
“We want to do whatever we can to help people,” he says. “If you look at everything that we do, it’s truly fighting for people who can’t fight for themselves.”
Lynch says that through the efforts of this outreach and many others they do through Navajo Nation Christian Response Team and partner churches and organizations, they have distributed over 200,000 pounds of food, water, and cleaning supplies along with several loads of firewood so far this year. There have also been over 4,000 care packages distributed since the start of the pandemic. In addition, supplies have been donated for distribution to the western side of the reservation, and over two tons of potatoes were distributed to Community Health Representatives who look after the in-home medical needs of the elderly.
“God is using us to provide hope and speak His Hope into many, many Navajo lives,” Lynch says. “It’s a blessing to be a part of the response team.”
In considering the many different organizations that have come together to meet the needs of the Navajo Nation and others in need, Tebow urges believers to come together and use their varied gifts for the glory of God.
He then sums up what every outreach’s effort should be focused on.
“It’s not about the banner of our non-profit or your church or whatever the banner a lot of the times we want to fly,” Tebow says, “it’s about Jesus’ banner to love the Lord God with all our hearts, our minds, and strength — to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Bible says, ‘Who is our neighbor?’ Well, everyone’s our neighbor.”